The aging structures of the once thriving Honolulu Blaisdell Centre, home to Hawaii’s premiere arts and cultural venues, will undergo a much-needed redevelopment that will see the precinct rejuvenated for tourists and the community.
Located in the urban heart of Oahu, the Neal S. Blaisdell Centre is home to Hawaii’s premiere arts and cultural venues. Constructed in 1964 as a memorial for the state’s veterans and war heroes, the original complex featured an arena, concert hall, and exhibition hall. However, the campus’ aging structures and a growing need for expanded capacity prompted local authorities to update the 22-acre complex and tasked Snøhetta, Wcit and Aecom with developing the site’s masterplan.
The Blaisdell Centre, which draws nearly 800,000 visitors a year, is flanked on three sides by major arterial roads, and is located near many important cultural and education venues. Throughout the development of the masterplan, a series of collaborative community and stakeholder workshops helped the design team identify core values that would build on the site’s multi-layered history and shape the project. As such, the project is conceptually guided by the significance of water in Hawaiian culture, and forges a deep connection to the land and a reverence for natural resources.
The plans drawn up by Snøhetta, Wcit and Aecom include a brand-new performance hall, an exhibition hall, a sports pavilion, a parking structure and reconceived public spaces. The development will not only restore and update the site’s historic existing structures, but also seeks to strengthen the relationship between the site and the people, culture, and rich history of Honolulu.
“Today, the two iconic structures of the existing arena and concert hall anchor opposite ends of the site,” explains the design team. “However, the campus has long struggled to balance pedestrian movement and vehicular service to the venues, resulting in a lack of defined outdoor gathering space. The masterplan proposes a radical reconfiguration of the campus that connects the back-of-house facilities of all venues on site with a single, below-grade service area.”
Importantly, a new series of lushly vegetated gardens terrace over and conceal a back-of-house spine. The new public realm is composed of distinctive spaces, conceived as outdoor rooms, which comprise a broader system that supports a variety of outdoor performance and recreation activities.
Visible water features, celebrating the use of water as it moves through the site, can be categorised according to four distinct systems: a series of pools and cascading waterfalls that filter and aerate water; a historically significant fish pond that supports a diverse aquatic habitat; an interactive fountain; and a stormwater management system along the street edge that filters and helps recharge groundwater.
Image © Moare
As part of the project, the site’s mid-century arena and concert hall will be carefully maintained and upgraded, while new structures are situated between them to improve connectivity. Home to the Honolulu Opera Theatre, the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra and several dance companies, the concert hall is a historic structure that has served the community for multiple generations. Here, the design takes a light touch, maintaining its characteristically rectilinear structure and low arches at the base, preserving the architectural vernacular of the open-air lanai.
The multipurpose arena’s scalloped, circular form is maintained while the interior spaces are demolished and renovated for a new and modern seating bowl that will allow it to better host amplified performances and rock concerts. The new structures onsite are designed to evoke the concepts of erosion, taking on the sculptural quality of being shaped by water and wind.
The new performance hall and arts ensemble will provide expanded opportunities for rehearsal and entertainment, while a new exhibition hall will replace the existing one with a more dynamic building that adds a third more exhibition space and expanded conference capacity.
Via designboom | Images © Snøhetta unless otherwise stated